Chaos ensued at White Hart Lane when not all season ticket books were recieved by fans. Adam Powley reports
Tottenham’s recent foray into the giddy heights of the table might have surprised their supporters but, when it comes to how they are treated by the club, it appears to be business as usual. Spurs fans are wearily used to shoddy treatment from a plc for whom customer service is an alien concept, but this season the club has surpassed itself with what has come to be known as the great season ticket fiasco.
After two home games of the season had already been played, many season ticket holders were yet to receive their ticket books. Some found themselves queuing for up to half an hour after a game had started, others discovered that, once inside the ground, seats were double booked or they were not seated in the areas they had requested. This has meant friends and relatives, who had previously been sitting together for years, are now seated in completely different parts of the stadium.
Visible evidence of the chaos came with the yawning gaps at White Hart Lane for the opening home fixture against Newcastle on August 9th. The attendance shortfall of nearly 8,000 cannot be solely attributed to ticket problems, but clearly they didn’t help. For the next match against Everton, fans still experienced severe difficulties. To add insult to injury, those fans who attempted to find out what was going on were confronted by Tottenham’s infamous telephone system, a communications maze that makes the World Cup ticket line seem the model of efficiency.
Tottenham have issued two apologies for the whole sorry mess. Thanking “loyal fans for their support and patience”, the club initially said that “overwhelming interest” meant the club had been “inundated with season ticket requests”, necessitating an extra order of ticket books from suppliers, which didn’t reach Spurs until Monday August 2nd. These were either dispatched by the post office’s special delivery service for those fans who had forked out an extra £3.50, or were available for collection from White Hart Lane.
Many clearly did not reach their destination in time. A few days later, the club admitted their level of service was “unacceptable”. “We apologise unreservedly to those fans affected,” ran the statement, reiterating that delivery delays had caused the initial crisis. As for those fans who encountered lengthy waits on the phone in trying to find out what was happening, Spurs put this down to “software problems” that have now been resolved.
While it is undeniable that individuals at the club, particularly hard-pressed staff at the ticket office, are doing their best, some of the excuses won’t wash: “Overwhelming interest” actually means a total season ticket take-up of around 18,000. Despite far greater numbers at Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland, they do not seem to have experienced similar problems. Neither have Tottenham indicated (at the time of writing) whether refunds or any kind of compensation will be offered to those fans who have been inconvenienced.
Then there is the thorny issue of fans who try to spread the cost of buying their season ticket – up to £795 – by paying in instalments. Tottenham’s scheme means such tickets were not available to be delivered or collected until a day after clearance of the second payment on August 3rd. This left supporters with just three days to get their ticket in time for the start of the season.
For supporters like Bernie Kingsley, co-editor of the fanzine Cock A Doodle Doo, the saga is symptomatic of a wider concern. “PR has never been Tottenham’s strong point and they do tend to shoot themselves in the foot.”
Like many fans, Kingsley wants to see changes in the club’s whole ticketing policy. In the short term, however, the fans’ interest in their team’s progress might have been more “overwhelming” if they had actually got to see them play the matches that got them to the top of the table. However surprising that position might have been, it’s got nothing on the lofty condescencion of the people who run the club.
From WSC 152 October 1999. What was happening this month